A picture is truly worth a thousand words. I have to admit that I was momentarily shocked when my eyes landed on the family photo of Sandra Bullock and her adorable bouncing baby boy, Louis. Honestly, my initial thought was “Whoa, I hope that Sandra has what it takes to raise a child of color in America.” My second thought was to wonder if he was born in the United States, and, yes, he was (New Orleans). Third, I was amazed that she kept the adoption under wraps. One last glance at those chubby cheeks and Sandra’s new mom glow powered me to exhale a sigh of relief. I have a feeling these two will be just fine. Infants and children need to be loved, nurtured and brought up in environments where values are more treasured than personal valuables. That can occur in a White, Black, Latino, or Asian household. Single moms, dads, two-parents, stepparents, gay parents, and grandparents have all successfully raised happy, healthy children with love and gentle force. Parenting is not easy. Parenting or adopting a child of color may not be easy, either. We do not live in a colorblind society, and honestly that’s okay. The role of culture, ethnicity, and family background can be a rich crown for kids to wear as their personalities develop. Dismissing the impact of race/ethnicity on a child’s being and self-esteem can be detrimental. Children notice differences in other children. An innocent comment like “Why is Anna’s skin vanilla and mine chocolate?” from a child provides an opening to have a conversation. Most kids don’t want to hear about the human genome project in the answer, they just want a simple explanation. One that may start with melanin
, mommy and daddy, and ends in “your skin is beautiful.” The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute has interesting findings on transracial adoption. They found that transracial adoption does not always produce psychological or social maladjustment problems in children. They noted that there are challenges: a key life skill involves kids being able to cope with discrimination. The response and ability of adoptive parents to respond to these situations is crucial. Adoptive children need to be placed with families who will assist them in reaching their fullest potential as human beings. Hmm… Isn’t that what we all try to do as parents? I hope that this is not just another Hollywood celebrity story. Time will tell. For more Real Talk stories from Dr. Janet, click here.